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But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. - 2Peter 2: 1-3
In yesterday's devotional I referenced an article on Charisma News entitled, "Six Lies from the Pit of Hell That are Destroying America." We dealt with the problems inherent with focusing on the modern day Babylon, which is America. The idolization of this country and the ignorance of bringing the lost the law without the actual Gospel, which remains their only hope. Today is part two of looking at the errors in this article. Besides what I have already outlined, this article is also grossly flawed in the underlying assumption that the world is to blame for everything and the church seemingly gets a pass. We see this increasing more and more as we delve deeper into the end times. Remember beloved that it is the church God chose to be the vehicle to deliver the Gospel and to create disciples of all nations. It is the church that is supposed to be the shining city on a hill, not America. Those lost in the darkness of this world are supposed to see the church and want what it has. The peace of God amidst the storms of life. The blessed assurance of eternal life in a world that promises nothing and delivers less. Yet instead they see today an organization that is no different than what they can get in the carnal world. They see a hypocritical corporation pretending to be better than everyone else. They see an insecure wallflower at the junior prom hoping the world will ask them to dance. They see rock concerts, smoke machines, and messages designed to tickle the ear and assure the unrepentant that they are OK with God when they are not. They see greasy grace telling them to not worry about those pesky dos and don'ts in the Bible. They see prosperity hucksters selling heaven in exchange for the latest Learjet. They do not see Christ. Sure they may hear His name mentioned but it is never in terms of Lordship. Never in terms of carrying our cross. Never in terms of our sins, which He died for. The devil is doing a masterful job of compromising the church to the point where it has become the church at Laodicea found in Revelation:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. - Revelation 3: 17-18 (ESV)
The largest problem facing the modern church is that it believes it is healthy. It organizes top speakers and carefully crafted leadership schemes. It sees the numbers of attendance skyrocket and wrongly assumes it is the blessings of God when it really is the approval of man. It says I am rich but its wealth is all stored up in earthly material that will not pass the test of fire that is coming. It is in the business of measuring success in terms of carnal prosperity so is it any wonder that it thinks it is prospering? It is wretched, pitiable, blind and naked but thinks everything is going according to plan. Except that plan is the devil's. He has convinced many to buy into many deceptions and we will look at just six today. First let me address the most common objection:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. - 2Timothy 3: 12-13 (ESV)
The most common argument used when defending false teaching is the defense of the character of the false teacher. That his earthly works of compassion somehow outweigh his butchering of Scripture. That his "love" of the Lord somehow means that we should dismiss his errors. The Bible teaches us however that the very salvation of our listeners depends upon doctrine, not our evaluation of character. The verse just cited adds to this to remind us that many in these end days are deceivers while many others are themselves deceived. I would view someone like Benny Hinn or Mike Murdock as an obvious deceiver. Someone who knows full well that they are making merchandise of the sheep of the Lord. But if it helps people, I can view someone like Joel Osteen or Andy Stanley as simply being deceived themselves. They have drunk the Kool-Aid and believe the heresies they promote as being truth. The Bible does say that when we convince ourselves that our darkness is actually light, how deep is that darkness! Now that we have dispensed with the primary objection, let us reason together. This list is just what I see as the top six lies that are destroying the church today.
1) That salvation is cheap -- Now, no pastor will ever admit that this is what he traffics in but the cold hard truth is the vast majority of churches today have dumbed down salvation to the point that nine words can wipe out a lifetime of sin. Those nine words can be found on Page 58 of the Purpose Driven Life. It is the only place in the entire book that salvation is ever addressed and the "prayer" that Rick Warren tells people to repeat is nine words long. How cheaply do we view the work of the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? Adherents to this nonsense will talk about how simple God makes things. How we make things more difficult than they need be. That faith and the free gift from God of salvation should not require a degree in advanced hermeneutics. To which I say amen. The point of the dumbing down of salvation is not because I think God offers a difficult gift to unwrap. No beloved. It is because we don't want the gift! Or we exchange it for something we really want -- like the license to sin while thinking we are saved. Or we return the gift when we start to count the cost. The gift of salvation is not difficult at all! We are! To think that a flesh-driven, sin-filled, life-long rebel will walk away from everything they want and desire because we repeated nine silly words we probably do not even understand is ludicrous at best. Consider the analogy Jesus used:
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3: 3 (ESV)
Childbirth! That is the analogy Christ uses! We must be born again! We must go through the arduous, laborious, and painful process of childbirth on a spiritual level if we are to come to the point of salvation. Think about the lunacy of a Joel Osteen service. He spends 25 minutes "preaching" about everything but sin, repentance and Jesus Christ and then smiles into the camera to lead unsaved people in a "sinner's prayer" to accept Jesus Christ? Is there any scenario that could possibly work? Beloved, saying "Lord Jesus", does not make Him Lord of your life. Saying, "I repent of my sins", is not a magical balm that makes you view sin differently. Most sinner's prayers today use the word "mistakes" instead of sins. Jesus is presented as a leased car. Something you can check out, kick the tires, and decide later if you want to keep. This is the number one lie from the pit of hell destroying the church today. That justification and sanctification are worth so little that the process of salvation can occur based on the whims of our spoken word. It is destroying our churches because the end result of this heresy is that we have congregations filled with goats, not sheep. Oh the pastor will then try and teach them how to act like sheep but the cold hard reality today is that the vast majority of church attendees today are not even saved to begin with. But they think they are because the deceiver/deceived standing behind the pulpit told them they were.
2) That proof-texting is an acceptable form of preaching -- The Bible is the revealed will of God beloved. He speaks to us through it. A true shepherd will seek the heart of God for his flock through the Word. I have been in churches where the pastor did this and result is nothing short of supernatural. Remember, it is the Word that breaks the yoke in people's lives. The Word breaks shackles and delivers people. The Gospel is the only power of God unto the salvation of men. But that does not mean we get to change what God is actually saying. Most congregants do not do the work of a Berean to discover that their pastors are not being honest about the Word. Joel Osteen for example believes in the Word-Faith heresy. He believes we are little gods who have the same power of creation in our mouths that God has. I have heard him repeat in many different sermons that the Bible says we are to call things that are not as though they were. This would certainly support his theology but the problem is the Bible says no such thing. It says God has the power to call things that are not as though they were.
Besides outright deception there is also an increase in a particular style of preaching that completely distorts the Word of God. It is known as proof-texting. The deceiver/deceived does not approach the Bible to hear from God at all. Instead he has his idea about what he wants to preach about. Maybe it is the week to fleece the flock and he wants to preach on tithing. Maybe he wants to do a series on how influential people can be in the marketplace. Whatever it is, he already has his premise in hand when he approaches the Word of God. He then scours the Bible, using apps and the Google god to find texts that support his pre-conceived points and then he offers them as proof that his premise is right. He thus "proof-texts" his sermon. It provides the illusion that his sermon is biblical but what people fail to realize is that the scriptures have been wrested horribly out of context to fit his sermon instead of being what God really said. No one is a bigger culprit of this than Joseph Prince. He believes that he has been given a different Gospel altogether. He believes his "gospel of grace" is the real gospel when all it really comes down to is a recycling of an age old heresy known as antinomianism. That is just a fancy way of saying that he teaches there is no need for the law in the life of believers. Every week Joseph has to dig deeper and deeper into the Bible to proof-text his sermons, which are solely designed to prop up his false theology. This is the number two lie from the pit of hell that is destroying the church today. That we would rob the Word of God from His people! That we would replace the insight into the mind of God for the schemes and wisdom of man. The result is a biblically illiterate generation who are spiritually apathetic about the fact that they are dying from their lack of knowledge.
3) That it is the job of the pastor to cast vision -- This is a hallmark of purpose driven church teaching. This heresy accomplishes two different things for the devil. First of all, it removes the shepherding aspect from a pastoral ministry. Church growth guru, Andy Stanly once said that we should not even use the term shepherd anymore because it is no longer culturally relevant. What better scheme can the devil produce? False conversions, hearing from man instead of God and pastors giving up their prescribed role willingly. The second thing this heresy accomplishes is the purpose driven church model also teaches the new pastor/CEO about a concept called "blessed subtraction." This encourages the new vision caster that anyone who disagrees with the vision should be shown the door -- completely flipping the parable of the 99 and the 1 on its ear.
So the leader has to cast vision for the church. Maybe come up with an annual theme or "power word." I remember once our word for the year was "overflow." I do not remember there being a lot of reports of overflow that year but it sure sounded good. The vision always has to do with how to grow the church. Increase memberships. What the young gun pastors fail to realize is we already have the vision beloved! It is called the Gospel. It does not need to be slickly marketed. It does not need to be massaged. It does not need to be part of a vision because it is God's vision. It just needs to be preached; without compromise. The third lie from the pit of hell is to have the man charged with watching the sheep think his role is to do God's role. This has led to so many people today being church hurt and never going back.
4) That it is the job of the pastor to horizontally grow the church -- Rick Warren teaches pastors to always prepare for the church that is coming not just the one that is there. That planning for church is always couched around growing the church. In fact, he changes the language so that the unsaved are referred to as the unchurched. That shift is not subtle beloved and has long reaching ramifications. The problem with the lost is not that they are unchurched. It is that they are unsaved. The shift focuses on making sure that individual people come back to your church as opposed to get saved. In a very telling article he wrote one year advising pastors on tips to make sure visitors come back after Easter, Warren actually advised against preaching the Gospel on Easter! His rationale is that you want to give them a "reason to come back." How disgustingly sad. What if their life is required before they make it back Rick? The Book of Acts make the truth clear regarding the church:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. - Acts 2: 46-47 (ESV)